Elevator emergencies have been on the increase as buildings get older and new buildings are built with more elevators. We will discuss various ways of accessing the occupants of a stalled elevator and the proper removal techniques.
Removing occupants from a stalled elevator is a common task but there are several serious dangers that accompany this operation. Knowing how and why we do what we do will make us better firefighters and be able to provide a better and safer service for the community we serve.
Upon arrival to the location we must first locate the stalled elevator. A simple way to locate the stalled elevator is to use the fire service recall key and activate the Phase One recall. This will bring the elevators in that bank to your location.
If the elevators in that bank recall and open up we will see if anyone is inside. If the elevator does not recall that is most likely the elevator which is stalled. Our next step is to make verbal contact with the occupants of the stalled car after locating what floor where the car is stalled.
Communication with the occupants of the elevator car is extremely important. We must maintain a constant dialog with the occupants to find out important information. The first bit of crucial information we need to determine is whether this is an emergency or non-emergency.
An Emergency Elevator Call
An emergency is considered a medical condition that is occurring inside the car. Some examples of medical conditions are hypertension, chest pains, and or difficulty breathing plus many others. If there is a medical emergency this will require our members to perform at an expedited pace, but there is no reason to cut any safety corners. Ensure that the BLS and / or ALS are ready and waiting on the floor for the occupant with the medical emergency to provide treatment as soon as possible. Upon recognition of a medical emergency ensure that an elevator repair technician is responding to assist in the rescue.
A Non-Emergency Elevator Call
A non-emergency is when the elevator is just simply stalled which was caused by a malfunction or a momentary power outage. Advise the occupants of what each step that will be taken in order to free them for the stalled elevator.
3 Steps for Remedying a Stuck Elevator
The first step to extricate the trapped occupants for a stalled elevator is to get the elevator machine room and turn the power supply off the elevator motor. At that time, wait approximately 30 seconds and then restore power to the elevator motor. Then perform a Phase 1 recall of the car. If the car does not recall we will have to take the next step.
Have the firefighter that is in the elevator machine control room shut the power off to the elevator. Lock-out & tag-out the power source to the elevator to ensure that the power is not restored when in the process of removing the occupants of the elevator.
Safety Note – Keep a radio equipped FD member at that location. This is to prevent anyone from accidentally restoring power to the elevator; if the elevator is not properly locked and tagged out.
While shutting the power to the elevator have a building representative make a phone call to the elevator company to send a representative to respond immediately to make the proper repairs and/or assist in the elevator rescue.
Once the power is secured to the elevator, members should open the hoist way elevator door(s) closest to the area of the stalled elevator car. Use the elevator rescue keys to open the hoist way doors. It is important to train on the different elevator keys and how to operate each one in their corresponding lock mechanism.
Safety Note – Be careful when opening the door(s) because there may not be an elevator in front of you. Look up and down the shaft for the stalled elevator car and open the hoist way door closest to the top of elevator car. This will be important for a scenario where the elevator car is stalled in between floors.
If we are unable to open the hoist way door(s) to access the elevator car notify your communications center to have a building representative respond as well as an elevator repair technician. (This will be discussed later on)
Again, communicate with the occupants. Get a status report of their conditions, seeing if their conditions have changed and now need medical attention. Let them know what the process will be in their removal.
The 4 Scenarios of an Elevator Emergency
Scenario #1 – Elevator Even With Landing
The 1st scenario would be an elevator car that is stalled even with or close, within 2 feet, of the floor landing. Chock the hoist way door open so it does not close. We will then be looking at the interior elevator car door. Explain to the occupants and have them move to the back of the elevator car before opening the door to prevent anyone from accidentally rushing out the doors before we are ready to assist in their removal. Members will have to lift the latch to release the door and then begin removing the occupants in an orderly fashion one at a time.
Scenario #2 – Elevator Stuck Above the Landing
The 2nd scenario would be an elevator car that is stalled about 3 feet above the floor landing. We will follow the same steps as a stalled elevator car that is even except that we must block the opening to the shaft below the elevator. This can be accomplished by using an “A” Frame ladder and place it across the opening. Once the interior car door is open have a member assist each occupant out of the car. You may set up a small step-ladder on the landing floor to assist in the removal of occupants. Have firefighters on the floor assist the occupant down the steps of the ladder ensuring that no one falls into the open elevator shaft.
Scenario #3 – Elevator Stuck Below the Landing
The 3rd scenario would be that the floor of the elevator car is about 3 feet below the landing. We will follow the same steps as a stalled elevator car that is even with the landing except we will have a member descend into the car and place a small step-ladder in the car to assist in removal of the occupants. Be sure to watch and protect the heads of the occupants from hitting the top of the elevator car as they climb out. Have firefighters on the floor assist the occupants as they climb up the ladder.
Scenario #4 – Elevator Stuck Between 2 Floors
The 4th scenario would be for an elevator that is stalled in between 2 floors. There are more hazards associated with this scenario. It is extremely important to have an elevator repair technician responding to assist in this operation; especially if all the occupants won’t be able to exit out the top hatch of the stalled elevator car. Have a Chief Officer assume command so that the company officer can properly supervise the members. Also, appoint a Safety Officer to oversee operations. All members that will be operating on top of the elevator car must be in proper PPE with a harness to secure them to the top of the car to prevent them from falling into the elevator shaft.
Just as we did for the other previous scenarios ensure that the power to the elevator car has been shut off, locked and tagged out. If the stalled car is in a bank with other elevators it is imperative that the other elevator car(s) be taken out of service and located within 1 floor below the stalled car or evening with it if possible. This will serve two purposes. First, by stopping the cars there is no longer movement of cables, counter-weights, and cars in the adjoining shafts. Secondly, by bringing the other cars up to the area of the stalled car, we create a platform below the area of operation. Once the cars are in the proper location the power is to be shut off, locked and tagged.
Then open the hoist way doors from the floor above the stalled elevator. When members are performing an elevator car top removal of occupants, ensure that there is enough man power as well as enough lighting. It is important to know where we are stepping. Again, communication with the occupants is a must. Let them know each step as we go through the rescue process.
A ladder may be needed to gain access to the top of the car. Once our members are on the top of the stalled car, find the elevator control switches and shut the power switch off to the car. This procedure may seem redundant but it ensures that the power is cut to the motor. Locate and remove the hatch and pass the hatch up and out of the elevator shaft. A ladder will be needed to assist in the removal of the occupants, a folding attic ladder works well for this scenario.
Have one member of our crew descend into the car and triage in what order the occupants will be removed. Have two member stationed on the top of the car, one by the top of the hatch, and the other by the foot of the ladder to ladder to assist in occupant removal to the floor above. Each occupant as they are being removed should have a harness which is attached to a life safety belay line that is rigged up on the floor above. Another member should be at the tip of the ladder to assist the occupant off the ladder onto the floor above. This should be repeated until all occupants are out of the elevator car.
If an occupant is unable to climb out of the hatch members are to stay with this occupant until the elevator technician arrives and assists in the rescue. Usually the technician is able to lower the car to the next floor down and then we can then remove the occupant from the elevator car like we would a stalled elevator even with the floor landing.
Once all the occupants are removed we are to close the doors to the elevator car as well as the hoist way doors. Keep the power shut to the elevator so that no one else will become stuck in the elevator. Document the names of the occupants that were stuck and notify your communications center that the car has been secured and that the power is remaining off and locked out until the elevator is properly repaired.
Performing basic elevator rescue is a technique that must be practiced by members of our crew in order to keep our skills sharp. Safety is the top priority.